Sciensano & Trace elements

Last updated on 2-5-2019 by Admin Drupal

Sciensano identifies and assesses potential health risks associated with human exposure to trace elements. We also support the policy in developing standards. Sciensano’s analytical expertise is also used in the performance of chemical analyses for third parties.

Method optimisation and validation to determine the presence of trace elements

Sciensano develops and validates methods that allow us to determine the presence of trace elements in, for example, food, food supplements and food contact materials (FCM). We pay attention to chemical form (speciation), appearance (nanoparticles) and bioavailability, because this can help to determine the toxicity and thus the health risks of these elements.

Studies of the occurrence and behavior of and exposure to trace elements

Sciensano investigates the behavior of and exposure to trace elements (this may include contaminants such as Cd, Pb, As, Hg as well as essential trace elements such as Se, Cu, Zn) throughout the entire food chain, i.e. from its sources (soil, water, atmosphere) to man. This involves both total element analyses and the analysis of element species and nanoparticles. In addition, the measurement of human exposure markers (biomonitoring) can be used to estimate exposure via various exposure pathways (food, air, skin) and to establish relationships with health effects.

Four major research areas can be distinguished with regard to trace elements:

  • analysis, exposure and risk assessment of trace elements and/or their chemical species via food or food supplements
    • The aim here is to take into account the bioaccessibility and bioavailability of trace elements
  • transfer of trace elements from the environment (soil, air, feed) to food
  • absorption, distribution and elimination of elements after administration via various routes (e.g. oral, intravenous) in rats through in vivo tests
  • measurement of metal and metal oxide nanoparticles via single particle ICP-MS in inter alia, food and food additives

Policy support

Sciensano supports the development of standards and health policies by working with national and international government agencies such as:

In addition, Sciensano belongs to the European Network of National Reference Laboratories for heavy metals in nutrition and feed and in food contact materials (FCM).

Chemical analyses for third parties

Sciensano is ISO 17025 accredited for the analysis of a wide range of trace elements in various foods or feeds, and in food contact materials. We perform these analyses against payment for individuals, companies and public authorities alike.

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